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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Review GSM-phone BenQ A500

Standard kit:

  • Handset
  • Battery
  • Charger
  • Wire headset with an answer button
  • Manual

Steadily, the company of BenQ has been widening its model line. And a regular product is BenQ A500. That is a clamshell with a small integrated antenna, a VGA camera and two colour displays.

The phone size is average and forms 83.5x45x23.1 mm, while the weight is 98 grams. It looks massive especially opened, and the very design tells upon - the upper part is as thick as the bottom one. It influences the work comfort in no way, the model is well-balanced. Three colours are available for the body - Light Electric Blue, Dark Blue, Cool Pink, Funky Gold. The main part of the body is silvery in all the variants with a lacquered covering.

A coupled volume button is placed on the left side surface, being small and placed uncomfortably, you'll have to search for it, since your finger won't cover it at a conversation. A camera button is placed a bit below. The very top features a headset connector closed with a rubber cover fixed to the body. An interesting place for a strap hole is chosen - it is on the left side surface between a headset connector and a volume button. The only IrDA gap stands on the right surface. Traditionally interface connector is placed on the bottom.

The top cover features a small (20x13 mm) external cSTN display capable of 4096 colours. The display quality is average and the main disadvantages are small physical and font size, which is not scalable. The external display can show a monthly calendar (just press the volume button in the standby mode), besides it can serve as a viewfinder for selfshooting.

A VGA objective slightly deepened into the body is settled in the top corner.

An internal TFT screen of 128x160 pixels (30x38 mm) capable of 262K colours. The screen quality is high, the picture clear and bright.

The phone keypad is plastic with small buttons, which leaves quite a spacious room unused. There is also a 4D navi button with an OK one inscribed, being quite larger it's comfortable to work with. Four directions for pressures have fast access to the following menu items assigned: SMS, profiles, album and user's menu.

Number keypad also features large buttons, however they could be smaller. The keys are grouped in vertical rows. Dialing a number and entering messages you can make though rare accidental pressures. The white backlighting highlights unevenly, and blocks of 1,2,3 and 7,8,9 are practically unlighted, nevertheless they remain readable. Both Cyrillic and Latin characters are inscribed on the buttons.

A call playing loudspeaker is on the back. The rest is taken by a 700 mAh Li-Ion battery. As the manufacturer claims, it allows about 180 hours of standby time and up to 3 hours in the talk mode. About 3 days the device worked in Moscow in case of 15 minutes of talks and up to 20 minutes of other functions a day. Full recharging will take about 2 hours.

Menu

The main menu is shown in two versions - the first is three rows of icons with a selected item highlighted, and an explicative tip below. The second way is quite original - you see a list with only names of items and numbers for fast access. Then you might find it hard to orientate yourself, since it seems you are in a submenu, which is displayed the same way. Of course, the first version is more attractive - the icons are well drawn and no slowing down appear when transferring from one item to another. The second way will be appropriate for those used to dealing with number sequences, fortunately, supported here. You can switch these views both from the settings menu and in the main one pressing the left functional key.

The localization is good - we found no abbreviations, long names are shown in a creeping line. The exact font is black and quite large to read the texts with no problems. The only point is when selecting an item the font gets white and if the name is long enough, the end of the line interflows with the background (at any colour scheme), but it hinders navigation in no way. iTap predictive input is provided.

There are 20 MB of memory with 16 of them available for keeping images and video.

Phonebook. The device allows up to 500 numbers in the main memory. Each user can have a name, up to 3 numbers assigned, e-mail address and a text note (about 32 characters). Besides, you can assign a contact to one of several groups, set a call melody and a picture (photo) or video shown at incoming call. Search is possible by either the first letter when displaying the whole list or a name. Contacts from both internal and SIM memory are shown altogether.

About 6 groups are available, each can have a call melody and a picture assigned, besides, you can change a group name. Up to 9 numbers for fast dial.

You can use a capability of the black list as well. First, there is a capability to create an accept list - then if the function is active only users included into the list can catch you on the phone, all the rest will fail. Besides, there is a refusal list where you can enter numbers from which you do not want to accept calls. The function is realized comfortably and may be useful sometimes.

At an incoming call a caller's photo (video) is shown full screen (if the number is included into the phonebook).

Messages. Up to 1000 messages can be saved into the phone's memory. The device allows working with EMS, and there is a preset of small pictures, animations and melodies. Also there is a set of templates with an editing capability. You can send our message to a single user or apply a group message capability. SMS chat similar the one in Sony Ericsson's phones is also here. You enter your nickname and the called person's name, further all the new messages will be displayed in a single window.

A simple in use MMS editor allows creating up to 6 slides. The message sent can't exceed 96 KB.

Call log. Here is all the information on incoming, outgoing and missed calls. Only a name or a number can be viewed in the lists, no data on the date and time of the call is available. Calls from the same numbers are not merged, but that seems useless due to the absence of information about the date and time. Call counters are also here.

Applications. An alarm clock is here, and totally there are four of them. Fro each you can change a melody, turn the vibra on and off, repetition can be set from 1 to 5 and a working interval from 1to 20 minutes. Besides, the alarm clock can be set for once, constant or every week-day work.

You can view the calendar only for month or an event list. Each can have date and time set, enter a theme and select an alert type (melody, vibra, melody and vibra) and a call melody. Besides, you can add a text note and set recurrence.

A "Fats access" section offers creating a user menu adding the most frequently used functions (max 12). Pressing the navi button up you get into the fast access menu, three vertical lists represent the menu.

Also you will find here a world time function (list view), plain calculator and a currency converter, a stopwatch with 9 intermediate values and a countdown timer.

Turn the IrDA on from here.

Entertainment. Three games are preset; they are Cherry Boy (game for logics), Puzzle Game (mosaic), Eda Mouse (logical game).

Besides, Java MIDP 2.0 is supported. All Java applications are stored in a special folder. You can install only two Java applications and upload them via WAP.

A plain musical composer and a Dictaphone which allows creating records with the max duration of 15 seconds and setting them a call signal.

Operator service. Here is WAP browser version 2.0.

Mediacenter. Here you will find folders with photos (images), video and music. Memory status is viewed from here.

Settings. All the phone settings are collected here. Five profiles are given from a call signal. You can adjust them all completely.

Select one of the five preset colour schemes, set a background picture (5 for the external screen and 5 for the internal one). Also you can set a contrast level (select of five). One of the two preset animated images can serve as a screen saver.

Camera. A VGA camera is integrated; both internal and eternal display can serve as a viewfinder. While shooting you can see the information about the resolution, contrast settings and zoom on the internal screen. Contrast is adjusted by horizontal navi joystick deviations, and zoom is set by vertical movements. The main camera settings are accessible by pressing the left functional key. Select of the following resolutions 96x64, 128x128, 128x160, 640x480 pixels. You can use any of picture compression types and one of 6 effects. There is an 8x digital zoom. The quality of the pictures taken is average, you should not expect more from a VGA camera.

(+) increase, 640x480, JPEG

(+) increase, 640x480, JPEG

(+) increase, 640x480, JPEG

(+) increase, 640x480, JPEG

Video capability is present. Record in two resolutions - 94x64 and 128x128 pixels. You can watch video only on the phone screen, you can't send it to a PC.

Taken photos can be either viewed as thumbnails or one after one. In the album you can apply one of the 5 preset frames, a small picture or rotate the image. Besides, there are two extra editors; they are Face Morph (a capability to apply effects in the chosen points) and Face Dressing (a capability to put animated frames in the points).

Impressions

We have no complaints of the connection quality. The loudspeaker volume is low; it is almost unheard in a noisy street. The 40-tones polyphony sound averagely, though the volume is high, it's hard not to hear the signal. The vibra is average in power.

So, here is a typical representative of the low-end class in the person of BenQ A500, no extraordinary advantages and disadvantages. The integrated IrDA is full-functional; the only point is the uploaded object can't overweight 240 KB. There are many rivals - about each maker has a similar model with close specs.

This device is to appear at the same time with BenQ S700 in September. The expected price of BenQ A500 will form about 200 USD.

Call melody samples ( 246 KB, MP3)

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